A hands-on training program for master artists gives folk art enthusiasts the opportunity to shop the exclusive online collection while artists gain critical business skills and experience

September 10, 2014 Santa Fe, NM – In plenty of time for holiday shopping, a new pilot program, International Folk Art Market | Online, will open its virtual doors to the public on September 15. More than 175 handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces will be offered, including exquisite jewelry from Niger and Peru, felt and silk shawls from Kyrgyzstan, and intricate metal bowls from Haiti.

Eighteen master artists from 16 countries have been selected by a team of business and folk art experts to be the first to take part in the Online Market. The artists have already begun a yearlong business training program, learning to navigate the complicated wholesale and export world with both written and individual, one-on-one support. IFAM | Online gives these artists invaluable hands-on experience, from taking purchase orders, to shipping their work internationally, to selling to the public—all with the help of experts. The program is designed so that the artists can make much needed year-round income as they continue their training.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to participate in this program because it allows us to receive the training while providing income for my group year-round,” said Hilda Cachi, a silver worker from Peru chosen to participate in the training.

International Folk Art Alliance (IFAA), the umbrella organization for IFAM | Online, has offered artists training through a program called “Mentor to Market” for the past nine years including mentoring programs and workshops. This will be the first year of the online program, which is something artists have been asking for.

“We call it a learn-and-do model or an online learning lab,” says Hilary Kilpatric, Associate Director of IFAM | Online. “It’s not enough to offer written materials about how to create a wholesale business. These artists get so much more out of it when they have the support of knowledgeable experts guiding them step-by-step. It can be daunting to do it alone, especially if you’re living in a remote village with economic and political challenges.”

Customers get the advantage of purchasing from these hard-to-find master artists.  “When I shop the site I feel like I am traveling the world,” says Peter Speliopoulos, senior vice president of design and creative director of Donna Karan, who helped in the artist merchandise selection process. “Each piece is like a cultural treasure that enriches our lives. It carries the touch of its maker and an embedded narrative of tradition and culture.”

Part of the organization’s mission is to foster economic and cultural sustainability for folk artists worldwide. When the artists complete the training program, they will be ready to sell their work to online stores and retailers around the world, creating economic opportunities year-round. “For artisan groups that want to expand their business into the wholesale marketplace, this training can open up a whole new world to them,” says Karen Gibbs, president of ByHand Consulting, whose company developed the curriculum for the new training program.

“We are learning how to use technology to increase orders, to grow as entrepreneurs, and to lead a dignified life by earning an income through our art,” said Patricia Parra of La Mega Cooperativa Artesanal de Los Saraguros in Ecuador.

The International Folk Art Market | Online will open on September 15 at www.ifamonline.org.

IFAA, the umbrella organization for IFAM | Online, is a results-oriented entrepreneurial 501(c)(3) organization that provides a venue for master traditional artists to display, demonstrate, and sell their work. By providing opportunities for folk artists to succeed in the global marketplace, IFAA creates economic empowerment and improves the quality of life in communities where folk artists live.

UNESCO has been involved with IFAA since its inception, particularly through its Award of Excellence programs.  IFAA is an active member of the Clinton Global Initiative and a founding member of the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, founded by the U.S. Department of State and the Aspen Institute. Other IFAA partners include the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, and the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.

For more information, interview requests, and photos, please contact Clare Hertel at 505-474-6783 or clare@clarehertelcommunications.com.